This Picard episode successfully pays off a challenging story idea (an homage to the myth of Gilgamesh) thanks to an intelligent script and two actors performing at the top of their game. Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard and guest star Paul Winfield as the alien Captain Dathon create magic together. "Darmok" is almost everything Star Trek should be, with the Enterprise crew actually seeking out new life and new civilizations, and a beautiful story that rewards the viewers for their patience.
...but after digging your hands in and immersing yourself in it for forty minutes, you do come away with more good than bad.
Starting with the bad, since it is mostly in the opening acts that you will find it, you get an episode that starts off in quite a plodding and distancing way. The initial contact and verbal exchanges with the Tama representatives is non-sensical to such a degree that it generates more of a feeling of disdain or dismissal than interest in the viewer or a feeling of being in store for a genius introduction to a new species in the Star Trek universe. We as the viewer are given a bit of warning of what we will witness through the crews' musings on past Federation contact with the species, but nonetheless, this initial introduction to them still comes as a major surprise and leaves you shaking your head. This disdain in the viewer is only amplified by the limited vocabulary of terms the Tama possess and the fact that they are repeated seemingly countless times to both the viewing audience and the Enterprise crew, both of whom at this point have no idea of what they could possibly mean or be referring to. As was pointed out in the episode itself, some of the viewers, even in the beginning of the episode, might have been able to gleam that the Tama were communicating in metaphors, but since the terms they use are rooted in their own unique alien history, these metaphors are essentially unintelligable to us, cast and viewer, who are outsiders to the Tama culture. Being presented with a problem or riddle that one is essentially fated to never be able to solve, does not intrigue or challenge, but instead irritates. Finally on a more superficial level, we are introduced to Picard's new Captains uniform, ala, the seude and plastic shouldered overcoat. Something that will make or break the show...no...something that is nonetheless idiotic...yes.
The good in this episode comes in the second half, when we as the viewer are finally given the pieces of information that can make us appreciate what this whole episode is about. It is true that by subjecting the audience to the same confusion as the crew, results in us getting that same head slapping`Well that is what they meant` òr `That is what they were saying` moment when some of the meaning behind the metaphors are revealed, but the main complaint is that this period of confusion was drawn out a little too long. By the halfway mark when the metaphors are still clouded, the viewer kind of resigns himself to the mindset that this exchange or meeting will not turn out to be something profound or meaningful since there is so much to resolve and clear up and so little time in which to do it. Unexpectedly (and to the major credit of the writers and the acting of Picard and the Tama Captain) we are treated to exactly the opposite and realize that the whole experience between the two Captains on the planet, their fate, their shared struggles and triumphs as well as shared confusions with one another, do infact make up the pieces in quite a touching, thought provoking and unique story. The second half of this episode grabs you as a viewer (and fellow seeker of new life and new civilizations) more intensely than the full 40 minutes of the majority of other episodes.
One final flaw that could be pointed out (but one that is actually quite thought provoking to discuss) is how a civilization that thinks and communicates in such a general and story based way could have ever developed technologically and socially to such a level to enable them to master advanced space flight. A society that seems to avoid basing it`s ideas and thoughts on narrow, concrete and specific events seems like they would be unable to grasp the notions of science (atoms, vacuum, gravity, thrust etc etc) that are needed in order to master their natural world and develop advanced techhnology. Wouldn`t flight be described and visualized and communicated more along the lines of `Crow, who soared over the canyon` than `force that moves you in a speed to overcome the natural gravity of the planet` ...interesting.
Every episode, Patrick Stewart's voiceover informed us that the Enterprise's mission included discovering "new life and new civilization". Unfortunately, the writers sometimes took this as a cue to use "weird" aliens as a substitute for thoughtful writing.
But "Darmok" is different. Throughout the series we'd taken the "universal translator" for granted; here we find aliens for whom it doesn't work. It's an unusual concept, one that is thoughtfully developed. (Consider the side-plot where Data and Troi begin to explore the Tama's language, only to reach a dead end.)
The key to this episode is the chemistry between Picard and his incomprehensible counterpart. The story is a wonderful one, but really comes together near the end - with Patrick Stewart's narration of the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is among the finest 7 minutes of the entire TNG run - up there with parts of "The Drumhead" and "The Inner the Light".
On later viewings I expected the episode to peter out at the end, after Picard returns to the ship - but the epilogue is a worthy one.
A lot of people say this episode is about the importance of communication - and maybe it is - but that fancy concept is not that important to me. Darmok and Jalad, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Picard and Dathon - it's about true friendship in the face of adversity.
When the Alien race the "Children of Tamar" try to establish communications with the Federation Picard and his crew find them incomprehensible. Frustated Captain Dathon beams Picard and himself down to the surface planets to see if they can bond. This is exactly why I watch the show. This episode was very groundbreaking in that it established a different type of first contact. I would recommend this episode to all first time viewers of Trek that haven't seen this episode. It was intelligently written and the plot moved very well. No boring moments or scenes. What this episode showed that establishing relations with one another is very important and no matter how it is you should never stop trying. Captain Dathon felt so strongly about this that he died for his beliefs. Well done Trek for one of the best episodes of the entire franchise.
In a last-ditch attempt to bridge a language barrier between his species and the Federation, an alien captain beams himself and Picard to a mysterious planet, risking both their safety for a chance at communication.
When this episode first aired, I was but a naive little boy. I watched Darmok with little understanding of what 'Star Trek' stood for, the penultimate message of the 'human condition' and the continuing strive to better ourselves. I failed to understand why Picard was beamed to this planet, why a mysterious creature was attacking him and this other alien, and why the language of the aliens lacked proper comprehension. It felt so long ago. I knew Darmok held a meaning. I knew it was pivotal and I knew that there was something so much deeper behind it. Having recently acquired Season 5 on DVD, this episode should be among the top 10 of the best Next Generation episodes. Darmok bears witness to a few key points: the first is what made this episode popular - communication. Most people mock the metaphorical language of The Children of Tamar, often citing the phrase "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra", or "Shaka, when the walls fell". In truth, it does sound very confusing. Yet a strange irony befell me as I watched this episode again, coming to realize that while we recognize the words, the meaning sometimes eludes us. Our own language is sometimes confusing in it's own context, whereas we can hear the words from another individual, but more often than not we cannot comprehend the words, moreso fail to understand them. Darmok emphasizes the importance of understanding what is being said more than simply listening to the sounds. Being the diplomat that Picard is, and fancying a mystery, his struggles to comprehend his Tamarian comrade succeed, but with a grave price. I suppose the second point could be just that - the price. In this episode, the Tamarian captain risks his life to help Picard understand the nature of his language, placing both captains in a dangerous situation. The compelling moment of this episode is realizing that the Tamarian captain, having known the risks, gives his life in an attempt to provide the bridge between two peoples. Could he have known that Picard might not have understood his metaphor-based language? Could he have figured that Picard would have been killed just as he had? Even with those doubts in mind, the act of risking it all in at attempt for peace, while foolish, is without a doubt the most noble of gestures, and to the Tamarians it could have been a great honor. If The Children of Tamar exist in the vastness of space, what an honor it would be to learn from them...
This episode is touching. When it comes right down to it, Picard and the alien captain are no different in spirit. They seek peace, they seek understanding. Language barriers can be broken, outward appearances can be dismissed. Darmok holds much meaning on so many levels, all it takes, as Picard says, is a little patience...
This is an episode I would recommend to someone who had never seen the series before, as it so well exemplifies what the show is about. Picard and the "Enterprise" encounter a race called the Children of Tama who are called "incomprehensible" by Starfleet.
Picard and the Tamarian captain are sent (Picard against his will) to the planet surface and neither he nor the "Enterprise" are sure whether the Tamarians mean to communicate or to start a war. Eventually, Picard figures out the captain, "Darmok's" intentions and how to communicate with his people, which is really what Star Trek is supposed to be. Seeking out new life and new civilizations. And in this episodes, it is done with excitement and excellent acting on the part of Patrick Stewart.
The “Enterprise” receives a signal from “The Children of Tama”, an alien race where they speak in metaphors. The Federation is interested in becoming friends with the Tamarians. Picard establishes a communication with the Tamarians using the viewscreen.
The “Enterprise” receives a signal from “The Children of Tama”, an alien race where they speak in metaphors. The Federation is interested in becoming friends with the Tamarians. Picard establishes a communication with the Tamarians using the viewscreen. The Tamarians speak but no one aboard the “Enterprise” can understand. Not even Troi can figure out what the Tamarians are saying. Picard is beamed down to the surface of a planet against his wishes. The Tamarian captain also beams down to the planet. Riker gets angry with this action and tries to beam Picard back aboard the “Enterprise”, but fails.
What a silly summary by me, yes, I know. But if you want to know why this episode is one of the best hours of television ever, there is why.
The tale of misunderstanding and then friendship, and then the deeply emotive use of an "odd" linguistic style to explain and express grief. The differing styles of the first officers, ready for war, and the captains, who look for friendship till the last. Picard bringing his own example to the table.
Gilgamesh and Enkindu at Uruk.
The deep emotional undercurrent to this episode makes it a very special one. Where often these episodes become a stylistic demonstration, here there is a real feeling of growing friendship and wonder. "Cap'n Terrell" (great to see him again, brilliant actor) and his chuckles as he finally sees this human is understanding are great.
This was one of the best written episodes in all of the Next Generation. The writers were very thorough and left very few if any holes in the plot or the story. The interaction between Picard and Dathon, especially when Picard told the story of Gilgimesh to the wounded Dathon. That scene alone made the episode for me. This episode showed what fine writers could do if they put some real thought into it and I wish that "Enterprise" could hire a few of them. In fact this episode was so great it could have appeared in any Trek series and been great and would have even made a lot more sense if it had occurred in "Enterprise" given that the Tamarian ship was supposed to have such superior tech. it would have been nice to see Archer's charactor develop the way Picard's did by the end of the episode.